Earlier in the week I came up with A, B and C goals for this race. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, taking into account my sporadic training since the marathon five weeks ago (only two runs over 10K, max being 14) and persistent foot pain (still not sure if it's PF - more on that in another post).
I stuck to my usual pre-race regimen of pasta for lunch and dinner, lots of water and a quiet evening. I checked the weather once more for good measure and tucked myself in at 10:00. Fortunately, we were able to set the clocks back Saturday night, which means it was actually only 9:00. I slept okay - not great, but not terribly.
The alarm went off at 5 and hubby and I were up, fed, dressed and out the door by 5:45. We picked up our groupies (my Mom, sister and her boyfriend - world class spectators, photographers & supporters!) and hit the road for Hamilton shortly after 6AM.
We arrived at Confederation Park where we left our groupies to catch one of the many school buses to the start line. It was a short ride to a local school where we were able to keep warm. We arrived extra early (7:30 for a 9:00 start) but it was nice to have some time to relax. They were offering free Tim Horton's donuts and coffee which I thought was a nice touch. I had packed a banana knowing that by the time the race started it would have been 4 hours since breakfast, but my stomach was giving me grief and could only get down a bite. I don't know if it was nerves or just stomach issues, but I wasn't feeling too hot.
The marathon was starting half an hour before us, and I was fortunate to see Marci (and her hubby) briefly as they headed to the start line. She was running her second full marathon in two consecutive weeks in her endeavour to become a Marathon Maniac. Make sure you check out the report if you haven't already because not only did she become a Maniac, but she set a new PR! Congrats again, Marci!
When it was almost 9AM we headed out, used to port-o-lets one last time (there were indoor washrooms available in the school, but the lines were too long) and walked to the start line. It was a small-ish crowd of <1000 and no corrals, so we lined up pretty close to the front.
Unfortunately, there were some complications shutting down the highway and we ended up starting about 15 minutes late. It was cold (~2C=35F) but we huddled in the crowd under the sun and managed to keep relatively warm. Many runners were jogging up and down the street, which is something I probably should have done.
The race finally began at 9:17 and I was excited just to get moving. I felt some stiffness initially, but warmed up pretty quickly. I was wearing light pants and a short-sleeve shirt over a long-sleeve, which turned out to be perfect. I rolled up the sleeves and tossed by cheapie dollar store gloves within the first couple KM's.
I started out pretty fast knowing that a significant downhill was coming up soon and targeting a 5:25/KM pace for the first half. The first 3-4K were on quiet residential streets and flew by. I took a gel at the first water station (3K) because breakfast had been more than 4 hours ago and I was already feeling it. The volunteers were the best I have ever seen. I believe they were all from a local high school because they were all wearing matching colours. Every aid station had a cheering section as well and some were so loud it sounded like the finish line! They gave me a real boost every time I passed through.
Before I knew it we were on the Red Hill Valley Parkway, where the entire north-bound lanes had been shut down. It was actually pretty neat running on the highway! Many cars travelling in the south-bound lanes were honking, so that was fun. (they probably thought we were nuts!)
The best part of the highway portion is that it was on a constant downhill for about 6K. Approximately 2 kilometres were at a 3% decline with the remainder at about 1%. I was basically coasting and letting my legs carry me. A few of those KM's came in under 5:00 but my average was around 5:15. I felt strong and was enjoying the race.
We had to leave the highway at around the half way point (and were greeted with a steep uphill). My pace at half way was on target at 5:21/KM. I was confident at this point that I would come in under 2:00:00 and maybe close to 1:55.
We followed some side streets at this point until we reached the waterfront. I noticed my pace was slowing a little, but kept it under 5:30. I took 2 Shot Bloks (=1 gel) at the aid station closest to 12K. It was around this time that I discovered I had been over-hydrating. I had been drinking water AND Eload at every station and was barely sweating. I could feel it sloshing around in my belly and it was not a nice feeling.
At 13K we reached the waterfront and hung a left to follow a street running parallel to the beach (about 20m from the water?). I could feel quite a breeze coming off the water, but tried not to worry about it even though I knew we'd be running right next to it in just a couple kilometres.
Sure enough, we made the turn at 15.5K and took a narrow, paved waterfront path along the beach, which we would follow all the way to the finish.
Enter LIFE SUCKING WIND. It was a constant head-wind from that point on, and felt like it must have been at least 35-40 kph. The sun was bright and I wasn't cold, but I was having a really hard time staying upright - let alone running - in the wind.
I slowed down significantly. I may have let the wind get to me a little too much mentally, because I suddenly felt like I was dragging my feet. I was also feeling very sick and worried that I wasn’t going to be able to keep the water down. People were passing me constantly and just couldn't will myself to keep up the pace. Most of these kilometres were over 6:00 and I saw my average gradually slip to 5:40, which would equal a 2:00 finish.
I had been taking brief walks of 10-20 seconds through the water stations (approx. every 3K) but it was getting harder and harder to start running again. I felt my dream slipping away and almost gave up on two hours.
At about 17K, the 2:00 pace bunny passed me (an old man!). I was able to keep him in my sights and held on for dear life. I wanted to catch up to him just to ask if he was on target or slightly ahead/behind just to find out what I had to work with.
At about 18K there was a sudden, steep incline (very short though) and I pushed so hard up that hill I actually thought I might keel over. Somehow I caught up to and even passed the 2:00 bunny! I kept telling myself that I just had to get to 19K and it would be cake from there. Who was I kidding? 19 turned out to be my slowest kilometre!
I finally saw the 20K sign, glanced at my watch and knew I could come in under 2 hours. I pushed as hard as I could. We ran parallel to the finishing chute before making a turn and bringing it home, and I saw hubby (who had finished at 1:36!) and my Mom and sister waiting for me. DH jumped in to run with me a few paces. I was flooded with relief to be so close to the finish, but still could have curled up in a ball at the side of the path. I'm pretty sure I gave him a look like "Is this ever going to end?!"
(That's the 2:00 bunny in yellow shorts behind me!)
I barrelled through it and eventually crossed the finish line. I was disappointed that there was no time clock for the half marathon, but thankfully remembered to stop my Garmin immediately. I looked down and saw 1:58:32 and could have cried with relief. I grasped one of the rails because I was sure I was going to pass out. Somehow I managed to get my medal, remove my chip and stumbled over to hubby and my family. There were some excellent post-race goodies: pizza, Doritos, bagels, fruit, pop. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any of it down.
At least I was finished!
The car ride home was not fun. I have never felt so sick after a run and let’s just say it was a good thing I had a barf bag. As hubby says, I “opened the dam”. Sorry for the TMI. I immediately felt better, but it was short-lived. When we got to my parents' house, I was sick again in the washroom, them curled up on the couch in a blanket. I was able to eat a few crackers and felt a smidge better. When we got home I laid down again for a bit, but wasn’t able to eat anything substantial until much later that evening. I ended up going to bed at 8:15 and slept straight through to 6:30.
Overall, it was a great event and I had a good experience, despite the windy kilometers and aftermath.
Gun Time: 1:58:32
Overall Place: 447/843
Gender Place: 186/475
F25-29 Place: 22/45
Chip Time: 1:58:27 = PR!!!
6 hours ago